I bought some Dockers this weekend and it included “100 free music downloads” which turns out just to be a trial month with eMusic, a subscription download service. Previously McDonald’s had given away a free song on Sony’s download service, but I investigated that and found out that they used some proprietary music format that only Sony players would recognize. So I never bothered. But 100 free songs sounded pretty good since on iTunes that would be worth $99!
So I looked into it to make sure it was worth it. Interesting. They let you download true MP3 formatted songs with no copyright restrictions and recorded at high variable bitrates for best quality. They don’t have as many songs as iTunes, only 250,000. So what’s the catch?
Of course there’s a catch. Out of that 250,000 songs you probably haven’t heard of more than 100 of them. They have a couple of big artists represented: Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Pixies, Bush, and maybe a few others though it gets obscure very, very quickly. They have one Rickie Lee Jones album that she did in 2000. They have some early Bob Marley. They have Tom Waits’ Mule Variations. Essentially they have gotten a bunch of small independent labels together. For $20 a month you can download 90 songs or something like that. So you can get songs for 22 cents each if you use your full quota.
I worry about their business model, but they say the artists are getting money from their sales. The only way I can figure this works for them is by operating as a boutique music outlet. They get you in the door by offering music you’ve never heard of at an affordable price. They make money by exposing you to artists you wouldn’t hear of anywhere else and I guess hope you’ll buy their CD’s? Of course with the automatically renewing monthly subscription they hope you’ll turn it on and forget to turn it off, but not many people can be doing that.
Today I downloaded about 15 songs, only a handful of which are very good. It’s hard to find good stuff. I looked through their “most popular” section, but they only list the top 20 songs and top 20 albums. I found myself going to All Music to look up some of these artists and seeing which albums are rated the best and which songs on those albums stand out. It’s a lot of work, but if you find some new band that you wind up liking it would be well worth the trouble.
It would be worth the effort just to download all of The Pixies songs if I didn’t own all their main albums already (though there are also some live albums and a collection of B-sides that I am picking over). And if you like CCR, it’s all there.
One thing I don’t like is they don’t help you determine which songs you are apt to like. It gets almost deceptive. For instance, if you look up CCR it will give you a short list of “Popular Tracks”. Remember, they have everything CCR has done. Here is that list:
Cross – Tie Walker
Tearin’ Up The Country
Need Someone To Hold
Don’t Look Now
Wrote A Song For Everyone
My Baby Left Me
It’s Just A Thought
Before You Accuse Me (Take A Look At Yourself)
What? However, if you go to the Top 20 downloaded songs on the service you will find:
Bad Moon Rising
Have You Ever Seen the Rain
Proud Mary (must be a different version)
So they’re not helping. You have to use All Music to find out *anything*.
It’s an interesting concept, sort of the anti-iTunes. Maybe I’ll find some new stuff. I’ll stick with it until I get my 100 songs or the first month and let you know how it turns out.